For several days last week, Brand Twitter entertained itself by suggesting which foods and beverages could theoretically be poured into the pages of whatever book you're reading. "Don't have a bookmark? Try using Chex Mix instead," the Chex Mix account suggested, posting two photos of a hardcover that had been filled with its own combo of cereal, chips, and crackers.
Then Oreo made its own version, dumping cookies and milk into a copy of Think and Grow Rich. Then Vitaminwater did it, and Little Debbie, and Steak-Umm, and then The Strand bookstore called everyone monsters, and Random House clapped back hard against "the worst social media challenge in history."
But according to a public librarian, someone actually did this in real life, well before it was a weeklong series of shitposts. "Don’t have a bookmark? Try using a taco," Amanda Mae tweeted. "(Actual photo of an actual book found in the book drop at my library in Indiana a few years back)."
The cursed image that she attached showed some kind of meat-filled taco flattened in the center of the book, ringing the two adjacent pages with an awful cheese corona. "[Y]ou legit COULD NOT TELL!" she replied to someone who expressed concern about this absolute crime. "It was so flat in the book, it had to fall open to this page for it to be noticed!"
A straight-up internet detective determined that the unfortunate book was a sixth edition of Nonsense Songs and Stories, which was written and illustrated by Edward Lear. The first poem in the book, which was originally published in 1871, is "The Owl and The Pussycat," which all of us read without incident in elementary school, before embarrassing our middle-school English teacher by making him re-read the "O, lovely Pussy" section a half-dozen times.
In an 1888 review of the book, The Guardian described Lear as the "king of nonsense writers" for writing the kind of poetic gibberish that literary critics can't classify—or even fully understand—but that in-the-know kids fall in love with. "Children who learn pure rhythms like these are building up for themselves standards of perfection," the newspaper wrote.
"Mr. [John] Ruskin has put Edward Lear’s 'Book of Nonsense' first on his list of the best hundred books, and to these happy children who possess a volume of these nonsense verses it will surely be remembered in after life as the first book that they learned and studied for its own sake." (Ruskin praised the "perfect" rhythms of Lear's work.)
And all of that's to say that Lear's probably one of the last authors that deserved to be taco'ed, especially if that Indiana library also had copies of, like, The Art of the Deal, anything by Orson Scott Card, or that book where Jonah Lehrer made up a bunch of Bob Dylan quotes.
It's hard not to side with Random House here: Books are precious and deserve more respect than tacos and Chex Mix and Vitaminwater are bestowing. And, as a lot of smarter-than-that people suggested on Twitter, if you don't have a bookmark, ask a librarian or literally anyone who works at your local indie bookstore. Not an employee at the Taco Bell drive-thru.